Vile Gossip: The confessions of a bad driver.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been, oh, thirty-six years since my last confession. Shall I confess my endless litany of sins all at once, or shall we do this in installments?

I sent two text messages while I was driving home yesterday. It was not only a bad idea, but most assuredly against the law in Michigan. What is it about us self-anointed masters of the universe that makes us think it’s okay to text while driving? Is it our exceptional driving skill? Is it that we are in a sports car that costs a lot of money? Is it because it’s only going to be one quick sentence? Is it because, what? We can use our third eye to drive while both our mind and our hands are otherwise occupied?

This sounds as stupid as it is, but somewhere in my subconscious (which, by the way, has known for years that simply talking on the phone while driving is really bad form), I justified working the long line of BlackBerry e-mails during my hourlong commute in horrendous construction traffic as something different than “texting.” High school kids text. Moms text. I don’t text. I never use my phone to telegraph LOLs to anyone, and it takes me hours to realize that someone has sent me one of those instant ‘Where are you?’s. No, I don’t text. I receive and answer e-mail. I am a very busy woman.

Of course, once I realized I was sneaking e-mail replies in between fits of hiding the phone in my lap when semis passed me, I was on the road to redemption. Admitting my sin was the first step to recovery. The e-mailing — texting — while driving has stopped.

In the course of breaking this bad habit, I have given myself permission to read my e-mail and answer it by phone. Which means I now somehow think it’s okay to talk and drive. It’s still a sin, but a venial sin instead of a mortal one, right?
Let’s forge ahead.

I drove 70 mph in a construction zone that was marked 60 mph. This sounds bad, but I was actually holding up the traffic around me, which was still going 80. Since most of the freeway construction in Michigan occurs at night, even the speed-limit signs that say “Where Workers Present 45” are ignored. (Does it count if they’re in a bulldozer?) Only now, as the road crew has finished widening westbound I-94 to three lanes west of Chelsea, the crews are out in force, humping 24/7 to get the eastbound side done before the snow flies. No one has slowed down.

No one, that is, except for all the people who have crashed. And they are many. On one single morning recently, I saw the wreckage of two out of four separate crashes that happened in two hours on a two-mile stretch of I-94. The first two were each two-car crashes with no injuries. Another was so horrific, there were a multitude of police cars, a fire truck, and several ambulances that didn’t appear to be in any hurry — never a good sign. The other bad sign was the two mangled cars pointing the wrong way down the exit ramp and looking like they’d been through a shredder. Rattled, I crept east in bumper-to-bumper traffic that faced a blinding, rising sun. Why was traffic slowed after the accident? Because of the upside-down, flattened pickup truck a half-mile down the road that had been hauling a trailer with a way-too-heavy load of big generators on it. The driver walked away. It apparently caused the wreck I’d just seen, which happened when a guy fiddling with his radio — that’s what he told the police — never saw that traffic had stopped. He never touched his brakes and hit the car in front of him at full speed, pushing its trunk into the back seat and killing one of the passengers.

Just two hours in the I-94 morning commute to Ann Arbor. I’m ready to sin no more.

Written by: Jean Jennings

Top, right: The road to Ann Arbor is filled with pitfalls. Not to mention bulldozers, dump trucks, backhoes, shovels, torn-up roadway, miles of orange construction barrels, and numb drivers who are late for work, dammit.

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